IriS Global Health Survey, 2011

To download the full results and analysis of the Iris Global Health Survey 2011, please click here

A unique, 28 Country, public opinion survey illustrates deep unhappiness with healthcare systems and their management, despite broad satisfaction with personal health, and a particular regard for the performance of the Family Physician (or General Practitioner.)

In a survey of 22,000 people across 28 countries, the partners in the global market research network, IRIS (International Research Institutes), represented in Malaysia by Dynamic Search Sdn. Bhd., have uncovered deep dissatisfaction with the majority of local healthcare systems. However this is balanced by high regard for their most recent visit to a GP (or physician) in the public healthcare system. The system may be badly managed but the Healthcare Professionals within it are very well regarded. Indeed the study also illustrated that perceptions of personal health are broadly very high, but with a much more muted assessment of own health in Eastern Europe, China and Chile.

A highlight of the study is the depth of information elicited on how medical decisions are arrived at and who or what is consulted on these. Amongst these the internet is used for medical information by 51% worldwide, but with very wide variation by country. Equally there is a significant focus on the types of medical professionals seen and how this differs by country.

Key Findings and Malaysian highlights

  1. Throughout Europe and in America the general view of the standard of the local system is very poor, whereas in Asia the public indicates much greater satisfaction overall. The variance in the standard of system, or more correctly, satisfaction with what is available, is vast, ranging from 81% satisfied in Indonesia to just 6% in Romania.

    1. More than half of the Malaysian respondents said they were satisfied with the national healthcare system, with 66% stating the system was either in “excellent” or “very good” shape.

  2. In 22 of the 28 countries under review public satisfaction with their local system is low or very low. Most tend to blame this on poor management rather than underfunding.

    1. In Malaysia, opinion was almost equally split on the reasons for problems in the health system, with 43% attributing this to poor management and 42% to the lack of funding.

  3. In 21 of the 28 countries studied there is a strong preference for central funding of healthcare as opposed to private individuals funding their own healthcare expenses. America and Germany are quite different with an almost even preference, half favouring central funding and the balance funding by private individuals

    1. Malaysians are heavily pro-state funding, the highest amongst the Asian countries surveyed, with 72% favouring state funding versus 21% favouring private funding.

  4. A really significant finding from the study is the broad extent of satisfaction with the Family Physician or General Practitioner. The majority highly rate their most recent experience of a Family Physician/GP, but with distinctly low scores emerging in Colombia, Chile, Russia and Ukraine, in sharp contrast to most other countries views. It is striking that many worldwide are highly negative about heir health systems, yet simultaneously praising of the individuals working within them, apart from their management.

    1. This high level of satisfaction with the family physician was also demonstrated with 82% of Malaysians they were very or somewhat satisfied, significantly higher than those who rated the health system positively.

  5. Many worldwide now want to collaborate in treatment decisions that affect themselves, rather than pursuing without question the decisions dictated by their doctors. The doctor may still be highly respected but many (the majority in 18 out of 28 countries) expect to have input into decisions about their own treatment nowadays

    1. Malaysians seemed to display a sense of distrust of information provided by the physician, with 25% making treatment decisions based on information obtained from sources other than the physician, higher than the world average; 45% saying they would work with the physician in making decisions, and 27% depending on the doctor for guidance.

  6. Physicians, family and friends and pharmacists are important primary sources of healthcare information, but the internet is a key secondary course for 51% of people worldwide. However there is significant variation in net usage in this regard worldwide.

    1. This trend followed for Malaysia with 56% relying on family and friends, 49% on physicians and 34% on pharmacists. As a secondary source of information, 63% rely on the internet as a primary source of healthcare information. Magazines and newspapers (54%), and pamphlets and brochures in clinics (43%) are also more widely relied upon by Malaysians, in contrast to other countries surveyed.

  7. The study also examined use of different types of medical practitioner, illustrating the sharp underlying structural differences in various health systems worldwide

    1. Compared to the majority of the countries surveyed, usage of family physicians or doctors in the public healthcare system was much more modest in Malaysia, 37% compared to the 59% worldwide average. Malaysia followed the global average in the use of Specialist Physicians in the Public and Private Systems at 42% and 26% respectively.

  8. In 20 of the 28 countries under investigation, more than a fifth of the adult population has ‘some experience of’ mental illness and/or suicide, either by virtue of direct, personal experience or through the experience of someone close.There is a broad perception that mental illness is widespread in almost all countries under review. 6 in 10, or more, respondents in all but five countries regard mental illness as widespread these days.

    1. 52% feel it is widespread in Malaysia, but just one fifth have more direct experience with mental illness, suggesting that it is actually more common than people would like to admit. This may reflect typical cultural behaviour amongst Malaysians.

  9. Otherwise the study looks at the incidences of significant illnesses and illustrates sharp differences by country. 12% or more have high cholesterol in Canada, America, Finland, Netherlands and Thailand. The far lower levels in other countries may suggest differing levels of awareness and diagnosis, rather than lower incidences perhaps.

    1. Similarly for Malaysia, only less than 5% of any of the medical conditions was self-reported. We believe this is not necessarily an indication of low incidences, but may reflect either Malaysians’ unwillingness to acknowledge their health conditions, or the lack of awareness and diagnosis.

International Research institutes ( is the largest global network of independently owned consumer or market research agencies. Dynamic Search Sdn. Bhd. is the country representative for Malaysia and member of IRIS, which it was selected to be part of in 2011. There are 35 IRIS member agencies worldwide and they work together on many joint studies and meet twice yearly. All need to satisfy the highest standards before they can be permitted to join and commit to working on studies of common interest, such as this Healthcare Survey. Many members use their partners overseas to conduct projects and can rely on their local knowledge to ensure that the most appropriate research is conducted, safe in the knowledge that their study is being undertaken by a trusted and locally-respected partner.

The Iris Global Health Survey, 2011 was fielded in the most appropriate way in each country, with the decision on the optimum methodology taken locally, but with a common questionnaire used in all countries. Fieldwork was completed between August and October 2011.

A fuller charted analysis of these findings, and further media comment, is available from Sharon Chuah at Dynamic Search Sdn. Bhd. in Malaysia, who can also organise interviews with, or introductions to, overseas partners.

Member of International Research Institutes (Iris)

Sharon Chuah, General Manager, Dynamic Search Sdn Bhd,

[email protected]

Tel: 03-78754387 Ext. 101

Tricia Yeoh, Director of Business Development & Research, Dynamic Search Sdn Bhd,

[email protected]

Tel: 03-78754387 Ext. 108